You're riding through the river valley, and up ahead you see a squat white building behind an inn on the side of the hill. As you approach the door, you see the remnants of fast food meals overflowing trash bins. The scent of microwave pizza floats on the air. Stepping inside, you are faced with glowing screens bidding you to register your identity. A small child in a green wizard cloak scurries by you. What do you do?
If you're into role playing, you sign up and spend four days at the Best Western on Southwest Boulevard.
Each fall, the Role Players Guild of Kansas City hosts a gaming convention called ShaunCon.
This past weekend, under the fluorescent lights in the hotel convention hall, 13 tables provided a stage for epic battles and soccer matches. The crowd was predominately male, ranging in age from 8 to 68, though I did see a few fathers bonding with daughters over gaming tables.
Gamers brought crates of books and stacks of card decks. Impromptu sessions shared space with scheduled events hosted by experienced game masters.
Wandering from table to table, I heard people describing dark dungeons and politically embattled port cities. Every once in a while, someone would blurt out, "I cast Magic Missile!"
At a separate table was the Gamers' Garage Sale, where enthusiasts traded old games, comic books and gadgets. Money from a Saturday evening raffle, as well as 10 percent of all sales, went to Harvesters, the guild's charity of choice.
The main event wasn't the imaginary action, though. It was a Saturday discussion panel on self-publishing and artistry. Bradley Will, Patrick Stutzman and Sterling Hershey talked about the tricky world of contributing to the expanded Star Wars literature and gaming properties, whose fans sometimes know the material better than the authors.
Kansas City native Aaron Williams recapped his 10 years of supporting himself with self-published comic books and Web sites. Williams can cover superheros, Star Wars, artwork, union labor costs, cell phone cases, the Fallout video game series and Disneyland in the space of a few minutes.
The Role Players Guild of KC is open to anyone interested in this sort of stuff and holds smaller events every month somewhere in the city. Next meeting is the Guild Game Day December 13 at The Chess Club in Riverside. -- By Matt Spencer